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Lament for a Son

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  859 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
This book was written more than twelve years ago to honor the author's son Eric, who died in a mountain-climbing accident in Austria in his twenty-fifth year, and to voice Wolterstorff's grief. Though it is intensely personal, he decided to publish it in the hope that some of those who sit on the mourning bench for children would find his words giving voice to their own ho ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published January 1st 1987 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
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Jul 07, 2016 Jessen rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and beautiful. I didn't want a practical book on grief. There are no answers that I can fathom that would be sufficient, and I didn't want attempts. Wolterstorff doesn't try to answer questions - in fact he asks questions mostly. He just shares his own experience of grief, opening up his own heart to welcome other "mourners" to come in and join him. I've handed it on to my dad and he's currently reading it for the second time. I would recommend to anyone, because really it's not just a ...more
Aug 28, 2013 Blake rated it it was amazing
I believe what first had me pick this up was a short piece I read by Helen De Cruz, about a month ago. She was writing, I think, on religious and nonreligious mystical experiences and the kind of warrant (or lack thereof) they might enjoy in epistemically directing our gaze towards a seismic and particular vision of ultimate reality. And there was something in her way of addressing these things, an attitude towards religious thinking that was heartily theistic and yet as heartily modest, that se ...more
David Schaafsma
I read this in part because Woltersdorff had been a professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, where I had done my undergraduate degree in English. He was part of the then famous group of philosophers there at that time, including Alvin Plantinga. I never had them as teachers, but I knew of him and admired his reputation as a philosopher from afar, so I bought the book, but not in 1987, when it came out, but in 2002, when it was reprinted, because I had more reason to do so.

Woltserdorff lost hi
Demetrius Rogers
Dec 24, 2015 Demetrius Rogers rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure what "shelf" to put this on in goodreads... Is it biography? Is it family? Is it life changers? Or is it poetry? Should it be ministry? Perhaps spirituality? Wellness? I think it's all these things, and more.

This was good to read. Good for the soul. Healthy, I think would be the word for it. In this little book, Wolterstorff gives voice to his grief over losing a son to a tragic mountain climbing incident. He processes his pain via 67 short, yet hauntingly beautiful entries. And he
Apr 22, 2014 Kathy rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a wonderful lady by the name of Mary who owns a bookstore in Sandwich, MA on the Cape. I was curious as to how it would fare due to how thin it was but I began reading it immediately. I could NOT put it down. I read it in one sitting as it's very easy to read due to it's journal style.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a master at writing about all the feelings one goes through after a loss. Feelings that leave you scratching your head and wondering how you arrived at t
Steven Wedgeworth
Dec 15, 2012 Steven Wedgeworth rated it liked it
While this book is moving in its emotional and personal witness, it also happens to be highly unorthodox. Wolterstorff comes back, again and again, to the concept that "God suffers," and he is not content to leave this as true through the communicatio idiomatum of Christ's human nature and divine person, but rather pushes further, locating the image of God itself in suffering. We are like God in that God is already like man, or so the argument goes. I'm continually baffled to see people claiming ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow...what an honest, heart-wrenching, intimate book. While it is true that each person's suffering is unique and personal, this book also contains universal truths. The book is also full of sincere questions, struggles with faith, and genuine "grief work". The reflection on "blessed are those who mourn" is itself worth the price of the book, but there is so much in this short little book. I will return to this book over and over for personal reflection on pastoral care as well as sermon prepara ...more
Mar 26, 2016 Chuck rated it it was amazing
This is one I could not put down. It's simply, yet elegantly written. Raw and vulnerable, yet full of hope and insight. A must read for anyone who is helping others deal with grief in general, but specifically with the death of a child. I've always known that losing a child is not the natural order of things. Wolterstorff puts the depths of what I might have thought into deeply moving and insightful words.

Several lines throughout the book resonated with me. Here are just a few. From the preface,
James Korsmo
"It won't stop; it keeps on going, unforgiving, unrelenting. The gears and brakes are gone" (23). Nicholas Wolterstorff lost a son who was in the prime of his life. Suddenly, and without warning. Awful to behold. In brief compass, Wolterstorff gives a very authentic voice to his pain and grief. It isn't muted for general audiences (or at least, not much), nor is it smoothed over as a blip in human experience. Rather, grief is met head on. And neither is it moralized into "what doesn't kill us ma ...more
Joel Fick
Jun 08, 2011 Joel Fick rated it really liked it
"It's a love song. Every lament is a love song." "Lament for a Son" is a beautiful, honest, and difficult articulation of grief. Wolterstorff invites us into his grief, to rejoice with him over the life of his son, and to weep with him over the sudden loss of his child. He is no longer complete, his family is not complete. "When we're all there we're not all there, his absence as real as our presence." It will make you cry, or at least it should. Death is un-natural. "Death, I knew was cold. And ...more
Lucy Wightman
Feb 23, 2013 Lucy Wightman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grief, touchstones
Lament for a Son
by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Simple and elegant are two words that come to mind after reading Lament for a Son. This small, easy book does not overwhelm therefore counterbalances the impossible loss of one’s child. One of the universal changes in grief is the loss of concentration. In losing a child I am not sure this improves dramatically. It took two years before I could read more than a few pages at a time.

In the genre of grief, I found the author’s reflections to be specific, desc
Jan 17, 2008 Kristi rated it it was amazing
This is a journal-like book on the author's grief following the accidental death of his young-adult son. Wolterstorff is a theologian but he does not claim to have all the answers --he asks a lot of questions and struggles to integrate his belief in the Living God with his sorrow and pain at his son's death. He is comforted in knowing that our Lord suffered too, and speculates that being made in the image of God includes that we will suffer as he did. This book is a good companion to anyone who ...more
Tiffany Nottingham
Feb 17, 2016 Tiffany Nottingham rated it it was amazing
pg. 13 We took him too much for granted. Perhaps we all take each other too much for granted. The routines of life distract us; our own pursuits make us oblivious; our anxieties and sorrows, unmindful. The beauties of the familiar go unremarked. We do not treasure each other enough.
He was a gift to us for 25 years. When the gift was finally snatched away, I realized how great it was. Then I could not tell him. An outpouring of letters arrived, many expressing appreciation for Eric. They all mad
Oct 16, 2015 Summer rated it it was amazing
I had the great pleasure to be assigned this novel to read for my religion class at college. And wow it is worth the read. Nicholas Wolterstorff faced terrible feelings of misery and suffering that are too intense for him to handle.

While reading this book, it made me realize how suffering can either push one away from God, or bring you closer. It's obvious to see at first Wolterstorff felt more distant from God. He was confused and heartbroken. How could he feel closer during this immense pain?
May 06, 2016 Catherine rated it did not like it
I didn't get anything out of this.
Natalie Eastman
Dec 02, 2014 Natalie Eastman rated it it was amazing
What can I say about Prof. Waltersdorff's Lament for A Son? My husband gave me this book after my father died in a confirmed medical malpractice situation, in which I was the primary witness. This book helped me sort through the various scenes of all those experiences, not pretending to make sense of it all, but seeing more of a God who cares and was with me, as well as my dad and mom, throughout it all.
The questions "why?" and "what if…" frequently escaped my lips during the two years followin
Matt Dahl
Feb 28, 2015 Matt Dahl rated it it was amazing
Having someone you love die is incredibly difficult, but when the "order of things" is reversed and a child dies first, the pain intensifies. This book is the best book I've ever read on the subject of grief. Wolterstorff takes us inside his head and his world--indeed, the world is profoundly different when an out of order death happens--and we get to hear first hand what it is like to live with that grief.

This is an excellent resource for parents who have lost a child. This is an excellent res
Neena Verma
Sep 15, 2016 Neena Verma rated it it was amazing
This book came as a gift to me from providence. Amazing synchronicity is that I read this book after completing my own Grief Pilgrimage Memoir (Releasing later thus month), in sacred rememberance of my transcended son. Much to my amazement , Dr Wolterstorff sharing is so intimately similar to how I feel , and so uniquely his own in the way he receives grace from his grief.

In his words , "all those on mourning bench" would be touched by thus book. And in my humble faith, all those chosen to live
Dec 21, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
Although I could relate, it was extremely heart wrenching, too much so, for a newly grieving parent.
It was however, reassuring that I wasn't losing my mind, but merely experiencing what any parent who has lost a child experiences.
Dustin Bagby
Apr 18, 2013 Dustin Bagby rated it it was amazing
Beautifully and powerfully written. A short, but deep well of insight into the one who grieves.
Feb 24, 2015 Omar rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderfully moving book that helped me express my own grief after a family loss. This book is highly orthodox, reflecting the belief of God meets us in our sorrow and suffering, it underlines the view that we are not intended to escape our suffering, as scripture repeatedly asserts, Paul described himself often as, "rejoicing in suffering", and "having great sorrow and anguish of heart". The book expresses the hope that death will one day itself die, as we look to the resurrection, bu ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing
Very helpful during a time of desperate need.
Aug 19, 2016 Christen rated it it was amazing
This book was so hard to read. The father's grief was so clear and raw that I had to set it aside after just a few pages each time. The one lesson that really stood out to me on reading this book was that we suffer because we love. The only way to avoid suffering is to not care about anyone or anything. The other lesson I thought was important is that we often are only able to see some things in the midst of suffering. They are not visible except through a veil of tears. I strongly recommend thi ...more
Rae Ann Norell
Jun 22, 2014 Rae Ann Norell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
This book was given to me shortly after my 24 year old son died while competing in a triathlon. I began to read many books written by parents grieving the loss of a child, but this one resonated deeply, as the author's son, also about age 25 and an athlete, died doing what he loved, mountain climbing. The father has to go to Austria to bring back his son's body. I have highlighted so many parts of this book, that touched me deeply. I will quote just one example in the Preface: "Rather often I'm ...more
Jul 05, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
Astonishingly beautiful book, in so far as you can say this about such a heart-wrenching subject. I read this after my Mom died in May. Wolterstorff discards his philosophical posture and gives us a peak behind the veil into his interior life as he struggles with the death of his son. I wept several times as he gave expression to the incredible ache of losing a loved one.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"Someone said to Claire, 'I hope you're learning to live at peace with Eric's death.' Peace, shalo
May 16, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everybody
Honest, real and profound a la Job
What the world gives, I still accept. But what it promises, I no longer reach for. I've become an alien in the world, shyly touching it as if it's not mine. When someone loved leaves home, home becomes a mere house
What does it mean, Eric dead, removed from our presence, covered with earth, inert? Or is such shattering of love beyond meaning for us, the breaking of meaning- mystery, terrible mystery?
I tried music... I had to turn it off... There's too little bro
Batch Batchelder
Oct 18, 2012 Batch Batchelder rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody affected by grief
Recommended to Batch by: Eric Levenhagen
A raw, unflinching (yet will make you flinch) look at grief and grieving. No sugar coating. No empty platitudes. An expression of suffering, mourning, grief, agony, regret and angst. Reflective. Incisive. Truly deals with the emotions and tensions and conflicts of living through agonizing pain as a Christian. Real expression of struggle hued with reflections of scripture and colored by the voices of other thoughtful believers. Helpful for anyone struggling to process and understand a grief - so ...more
Jan 17, 2008 Ray rated it really liked it
Nicholas Wolterstorff is a top drawer theologian who taught at Yale for years. He is a part of the evangelical Christian Reformed Church.

But he's also one who knows deep sorrow up close. His gifted, kind young son Eric was taken suddenly in a freak accident. Wolterstorff was plunged into deep grief that caused him to reconsider everything. On the other end of it came a requiem music memorial, and this engrossing little book - Lament for a Son, written in 1987. For years I have recommended this
Stacie Bertram
Jan 09, 2013 Stacie Bertram rated it it was amazing
By far, the best book on grief I have read -- and I have read many. This book resonated with me on so many levels -- the shock of losing a child suddenly (my daughter died in a car accident), the disbelief that it happened, the raging against a God that like the author I had trusted in my whole life who allowed this to happen to me, the inability to accept platitudes from well-meaning people who were afraid to "...sit beside me on my mourning bench." He so eloquently expresses the aching, anger ...more
scott cunningham
Jul 08, 2007 scott cunningham rated it it was amazing
This book is one of my favorites, oddly enough. It is odd, maybe, since the book was written by a theologian named Nicholas Wolterstorff in the wake of his 25-year-old son's death, and I've never had a close intimate in my life die. But the book had quite an effect on me - and still does, actually, as I have read it twice since then, and skimmed it several other times. The book refuses to let the reader believe that death is "natural." If death is natural, then we are obliged to accept it as sim ...more
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Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, and Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on metaphysics, aesthetics, political philosophy, epistemology and theology and philosophy of religion.
More about Nicholas Wolterstorff...

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“And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry.” 24 likes
“But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.” 23 likes
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